Former Manchester United steward jailed for life for murder
A former Manchester United steward has been jailed for life for the IS-inspired murder of an imam
Mohammed Syeedy, 21, was consumed by hatred of Jalal Uddin, 71, because he practised a form of Islamic healing in Rochdale's Bangladeshi community which the terror group consider "black magic".
Syeedy acted as getaway driver for another man, Mohammed Kadir, 24, who bludgeoned Mr Uddin to death in a children's play area on the early evening of February 18, Manchester Crown Court heard.
Kadir fled the UK three days after the killing and it is thought he may now be in Syria.
Syeedy held his hands to his face in shock after the foreman delivered the verdict after about four hours of jury deliberations.
He later shook his head several times with his face covered as he sat down.
High Court judge Sir David Maddison handed him a life sentence, with a minimum term of 24 years.
The judge said Mr Uddin was a "gentle, well-respected man" who was attacked and "brutally" killed because he practised Ruqya faith healing.
He told Syeedy: "You and your co-offender saw the practice as a form of black magic that could not be tolerated within Islam."
Defenceless Mr Uddin was dealt at least five savage blows from behind with a hammer, shortly after he entered the park in South Street, Rochdale.
The swift and ferocious attack smashed his skull and drove a piece of bone into his brain.
Their victim was targeted after it was discovered he was providing "taweez", in which he made amulets to bring good fortune to the wearer.
Syeedy was involved in months-long surveillance of Mr Uddin and along with Kadir stalked their prey after he left the Jalalia Mosque to go to a friend's house for an evening meal
The Crown said Syeedy was a "knowing participant" in the murder, and his claim that he had no idea what IS supporter and ex-John Lewis call centre worker Kadir planned and then carried out, was "absurd".
The judge concluded Syeedy was aware Mr Uddin would be seriously injured "as to disable him permanently to prevent him practising Ruqya, through taweez, ever again".
And he said he was satisfied Syeedy had run into his home in Ramsay Street, Rochdale, to grab the murder weapon in a "carefully planned" plot.
Sir David told the defendant: "So slick was this operation that only some 90 seconds passed between the killer getting out of the car, approaching Jalal Uddin, killing him, and then proceeding to the other side of the park, where you picked him up.
"The evidence in this case, to my view, established that you have an interest in jihad, in the sense of armed violent struggle by extremists.
"It is quite plain that you have a strong dislike of the use of taweez."
The judge said there was "no significant" evidence to be certain that he was an active supporter of IS.
In fixing the length of sentence, he said: "I take in to account you were not the actual killer, but it seems to me you were an obviously integral part to the commission of this offence, and it could not have been committed without your involvement."
In a victim personal statement read to the court, one of Mr Uddin's seven children said "the pain and void that has been left with his death has been unbearable".
Saleh al-Arif said his father was "a distinguished Islamic scholar" who had moved to the UK in 2002 to help provide for his family back home.
He began teaching the Koran to children in east London, before moving to Birmingham and then to Rochdale where he became an imam at the Jalalia Mosque.
He said: "He was a devout pacifist and shared love to all he came across. I cannot begin to understand why anyone would want to murder him."
Describing his visit to Oldham mortuary to see his father's body, he said: "I was denied the most basic right, to kiss my father's face, because of this cowardly and horrific attack."
In a statement issued by police, his family added: "Weeks prior to his murder, Jalal had intended to return to Bangladesh and be reunited with his wife, children and grandchildren, whom he had not seen for some 15 years, in which time he had dedicated his life to selflessly serving his family, trying to make ends meet.
"Although Jalal was a Muslim who peacefully practised his faith, he had a love and respect for all religions, cultures and creeds, and the fact that he was murdered by someone inspired by Isil shows the true nature and barbarity of this organisation and those who serve it."
Although Kadir, formerly of Chamber Road, Oldham, remains at large, police did not issue a photograph of him.